DYD: Tell us about The Nomadic Orchestra, its formation and what it’s all about.
The Nomadic Orchestra: We are a Balkan Brass Fusion Dance band and we all met while studying music at UCT. The band played its first gig in 2009, but then only had one of our current members (Joe) and did not have a name yet. For quite some time we only played weddings, functions and a couple of Balkan parties (Balkanology being the main one). Much later, sometime in 2011, we started finding a place for ourselves in the local club and festival circuit. Since our trumpet player, James McClure, joined us at the end of 2011, we’ve felt that the band is at its best and we hope to keep everyone together and involved.
DYD: Your music is the embodiment of fusion; Balkan meets Afro by way of big brass, each merged together like the entangled spiral of a swirl of Aquafresh. How does one find a bunch of individuals with such a bespoke mind-set to start a group like this?
The Nomadic Orchestra: Music school! Although there is some crossover amongst us, we all listen to really different kinds of music. I guess the only music that all five of us like is Chet Baker.
DYD: All your music is composed is uniquely composed and performed by the band, tell us about the process of creating such eclectic music.
The Nomadic Orchestra: Generally, we argue and discuss for hours and hours. Any piece of music that gets the go-ahead from all five members has generally undergone a rigorous process of painful overthinking and analysis in the practice room. We endlessly debate everything, to the last detail. Our creative process is really, really slow and painstaking but we’re always happy with what comes out (and that’s definitely what’s important). We don’t have one specific compositional method. Someone usually brings a composition or musical fragment to the band and we discuss and workshop ideas as a group. Different songs have different amounts of pre-composed versus band-composed material. A lot of the material we work on is disregarded and thrown away forever.
DYD: You recently did a live promotional tour which had quite the unique approach of invading spaces – tell us a about it.
The Nomadic Orchestra: We are a band that thrives on human interaction. We very much find our value in live performance and audience interaction. This is not to say that the music is unimportant but rather that it finds its meaning when people engage directly with it.
We can play without any sound system, so rather than trying to use the tired marketing model of bringing people to our shows, we can physically take our music to people.
Most people don’t know what the hell to do when they are blasted with high-energy fusion dance music – all you can do is smile and go with it. It’s not the kind of thing you see every day (unfortunately).
DYD: One of your stops involved jamming in a petrol station Woolworths- what spurred the decision to play in such a place? Did you organize with the store or was it a proper spur- of-the-moment invasion?
The Nomadic Orchestra: No organisation was done whatsoever. Well, no liaising with the station, that is. We just ran in and delivered joyous dance music. Because we present such unassuming, non-vitriolic music, people find it incredibly difficult to shut us down. This is because if they stop us they look like a bit of a tosser. This is a little bit cheeky but it’s always worked in our favour. People generally don’t mind us making a bit of music and then disappearing. In our campaign, we got favourable reviews from both security and traffic policemen.
DYD: I really love the idea of pop-up shows; I think you should definitely look into invading other cities with the utmost haste.
The Nomadic Orchestra: I fully agree! We do want to keep it fresh, though, and will be looking at creative ways we can expand on this concept (rather than just doing the same thing elsewhere). By the way, this campaign concept came from the mind of Ryk Otto.
DYD: When it comes to spinning the unconventional to the degree that you do, does self-doubt rear its ugly head? Most would have a hard time thinking that a polka brass dance band would ever work and the thought of adhering to something more mainstream would be immensely alluring.
The Nomadic Orchestra: We argue about this a fair amount. Obviously, we want to be successful enough that each of us can pursue music as a career, but we are in disagreement about the amount to which we will compromise our music to achieve it. At the moment, I guess we’re chasing the dream that we can change the nature of pop music itself, and we’re not selling out even a little. Things can’t stay as they are forever – it is possible that there will be a revival of instrumental music and virtuostic musicianship in mainstream pop and we could spearhead this movement. Alternatively, we may embrace electronic music to some degree. We are living in an exciting musical time – there seems to be an audience for pretty much any genre you care to explore.
DYD: How do you feel about the emerging music scene in this country? How do you feel about the overall creativity within the local scene?
The Nomadic Orchestra: There is some truly amazing music happening locally. On any given weekend, we are spoiled for choice. We absolutely love Beatenberg and Christian Tiger School.
DYD: What is in store for The Nomadic Orchestra this year?
The Nomadic Orchestra: We are going to be exploring our country this winter (that means a tour). We will also be releasing our first music video and another album (miles better than our previous one).
DYD: Where do you see yourselves in the future? What do you hope to achieve?
The Nomadic Orchestra: We want to spend our days writing and performing music. We want to be always improving upon our music, and making music that people can enjoy.
DYD: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to the people reading this?
The Nomadic Orchestra: If you got all the way through this article, you are rad! Please contact the band and tell us what you think of us and what you would like from us (musically speaking!).